Attorney General Hardy Myers today filed settlement agreements with three of the nation's largest wireless telephone carriers ending a two-year, multi-state investigation into the companies alleged unclear disclosures and misleading advertisements regarding service agreement terms and wireless coverage areas. Named in three Assurances of Voluntary Compliance filed today in Marion County Circuit Court are Verizon Wireless, a dba of Cellco Partnership of Bedminster, New Jersey, Cingular Wireless, LLC of Atlanta, Georgia and Sprint Spectrum, LP, otherwise known as Sprint PCS, of Overland Park, Kansas. The settlements admit no violation of law.
"Consumer complaints regarding wireless services have grown along with the wireless industry since the late 1990s," Myers said. "As we monitored the dramatic increase in complaints, it became evident that consumers, at the point of sale, were not being adequately provided with all the necessary facts regarding wireless service."
Under the agreements, all three carriers must provide substantially accurate coverage maps to consumers. In some cases, maps indicated calling areas covered the entire United States when, for a variety of reasons, coverage was limited due to lack of cell towers, lack of roaming agreements, lack of capacity to accommodate all calls during certain high peak times and physical obstructions such as buildings, hills and trees.
The three carriers also agreed, for at least the next three years, to provide new customers with a minimum of 14 days to try out their wireless service and be permitted to terminate the contract for any reason without paying the early termination fee listed in the contract. Furthermore, the carriers must return any activation or other "non-usage" based fee charged to consumers if consumers cancel within three days of activation.
Other provisions of the agreements call for certain disclosures in the carriers' advertisements and through their retail, Internet, and telemarketing sales channels, designed to provide consumers with comprehensive information about the costs and limits of their wireless service.
According to 2003 statistics from the Federal Communications Commission, Oregon has more than l.7 million wireless subscribers with an estimated 426,000 with Verizon, more than 302,000 with Cingular, and at least 213,000 with Sprint.
The carriers are required to pay more than $5 million to the 34 participating states with Oregon receiving $106,000 for its consumer protection and education fund.
Consumers wanting information on choosing a wireless service may contact the Attorney General's consumer hotline at (503) 378-4320 (Salem area only), (503) 229-5576 (Portland area only) or toll-free at 1-877-877-9392. Justice is online at www.doj.state.or.us.
Jan Margosian, (503) 947-4333 (media line only) firstname.lastname@example.org